Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

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Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Alligator viewing at Everglades Outpost. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

There’s so much to do within the state of Florida, especially when it comes to adventure. The state is full of thrilling activities along both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast, in addition to plenty of action within the springs of Northern Florida, and even some surprises inland.

Miami

At the southern tip of Florida is Miami, surrounded by high-rise buildings and coastal access at every angle. The city has a ton of adventure and plenty of ocean access, along with great places to stay, an amazing culinary scene, and an impressive art scene.

Check into the Kimpton Surfcomber

1717 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

For a boutique accommodation option that’s extremely pet and family-friendly, check out Kimpton Surfcomber in Miami Beach. The location is ideal, right in the heart of Miami Beach with a spa, pools, and restaurants along with private beach access. The hotel offers special amenities for guests like salsa classes and happy hours, in addition to their comfortable, stylish rooms, some with incredible views of the beach and a terrace.

The Trump International Beach Resort

18001 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160

Let me start by clarifying that Trump does not actually own this hotel. The Trump International Beach Resort, located in Sunny Isle Beach, has incredible views of the ocean and easy beach access, along with water toys for guests to enjoy in addition to the pools on the property. Right on the beach, there’s a hut where guests can rent jet skis, standup paddle boards, and even electric surfboards. Azzurro, the in-house Italian restaurant with delicious calamari and lobster ravioli topped with caviar, is perfect for a convenient, but delicious dinner.

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Jet skis at the Trump International Beach Resort. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

At Biscayne National Park Eco Adventures, the boat can bring snorkelers out to multiple different locations for underwater adventures. On the way out, expect to see playful dolphins, in addition to plenty of bright, colorful fish, turtles, and more on the reefs. It really depends on the day where the captain will bring guests out snorkeling, but ours went to two spots along Ball Buoy Reef and it was spectacular. The coral reef was absolutely stunning, brightly colored, and filled with fish of all kinds from barracudas to parrot fish. Even sharks! I observed and followed (from a distance to respect their space) a nurse shark for a while and it was so special to watch him swim peacefully through the reef.

Tarpoon Lagoon Dive Center Snorkeling (300 Alton Rd Suite 110 Miami Beach Florida) offers snorkel and diving trips to guests, where you can expect to observe plenty of fish and coral reefs, among some truly special sites like the Neptune Memorial Reef and Rainbow Reef. I will admit, this definitely seems geared towards divers. The group generally visits two different spots, and the action is happening well below the surface line.

If you’re looking for boat rides with a little adventure attached, try the Thriller inside the Bayside Marketplace (401 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL 33132). The speedboat will fly around Miami Beach with music blasting, wind and the mist from the waves blowing through your hair, while the captain also acts as a knowledgeable tour guide.

If you love immersive art, check out ARTECHOUSE Miami (736 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139). The new installation brings digital art to new levels through technological exhibitions. Superblue Miami (1101 NW 23rd St, Miami, FL 33127) is another immersive option, where the light installations put you right into the art itself. Pay extra for the cloud room, where foam bounces and blows around, like real clouds. It’s truly incredible to see.

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Havana 1957. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

There are so many places in Miami Beach to experience authentic Cuban food, but Havana 1957 (405 Española Way, Miami Beach, FL 33139 is easily a favorite with a tasty menu full of options or samplers, giving customers the opportunity to try multiple things on one plate. Not to mention amazing mojitos. Marabú (701 S Miami Ave Brickell City Center 4th Floor, Miami, FL 33131) is another local spot that truly celebrates traditional Cuban food and culture, serving dishes to try like their citrus steak and fried sweet plantains.

If you’re craving pizza, head to Harry’s Pizzeria Miami Beach (1680 Meridian Ave Suite 102, Miami Beach, FL 33139) for some Neapolitan-style pizzas, salads, and appetizers like stretchy mozzarella sticks. Harry’s was opened by James Beard Award-winning Chef, Michael Schwartz, so customers know they’re in great hands when dining here.

For unbelievable Mediterranean food, try Motek Aventura – Mediterranean Cafe & Restaurant (19565 Biscayne Blvd #938, Aventura, FL 33180). The pitas were to die for, especially when loaded up and dunked in their spreads like fresh hummus, eggplant salad, Israeli salad, and babaganoush. The halloumi salad was salty and flavorful and the lamb shawarma was full of flavor and spice.

Homestead

Not far from Miami is Everglades National Park where visitors can kayak and explore. Everglades National Park is a huge wetland spanning over 1,500,000 acres in Southern Florida and is home to some amazing creatures like manatees, turtles, Florida panthers, and of course, plenty of alligators. Just outside of the park, there are multiple adventures worth having in this small area.

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Everglades Alligator Farm. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Everglades Outpost Wildlife Rescue

35601 SW 192nd Ave, Homestead, FL 33034

Known for his expert status and experience with these magnificent animals, Chris has been working with Casper (one of the gators on the property) for years. He started these tours where people can interact safely and ethically with the alligators in protected waters with his leadership. His mission is to show people that alligators are not terrifying, they’re actually calm creatures that are not very known for attacking humans and the issues that can come from people feeding them in the wild. Guests get in the water with Chris and watch as he interacts with Casper gently and calmly. This incredible experience has drawn in people from all over the world and gives individuals a chance to view alligators from below.

Everglades Alligator Farm – Airboat Ride

40351 SW 192nd Ave, Homestead, FL 33034

At the Everglades Alligator Farm, observe different wildlife habitats before boarding one of their airboats. Rides go out every 20 minutes give or take a few and bring you whipping through wetlands to observe alligators and enjoy the ride. If it’s a hot day, sit in the front row, but protect your stuff. You definitely will get soaked as you glide over the water.

Robert is Here

40351 SW 192nd Ave, Homestead, FL 33034

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Robert Is Here. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Swing into Robert Is Here for a snack. This family-owned stand has a ton of fresh produce and exotic fruits to taste including guanabana. They also are known for their Cuban sandwiches if you’re looking for something quick on the go.

Smokehouse 191

35601 SW 192nd Ave, Homestead, FL, 33034

Smokehouse 191, in the lot right next to the Everglades Outpost where you can swim with gators, the smoke truck makes all kinds of delicious goodies like garlicky barbecue ribs and smoked wings, with homemade coleslaw on the side.

Orlando

Orlando is known, of course, for being home to Walt Disney World. The resorts are mostly based around Disney and visits to the park. Disney is incredible and has a lot to offer adults and children, with special foods around the parks for their 50th anniversary. That being said, there’s so much more to the area than just Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World Swan Reserve

1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd, Orlando, FL, 32830

Regardless of your price point, Walt Disney World has a really good resort option for you, with shuttles and ways to get to the parks for free, so guests don’t have to worry about paying around $25 to park a rental car. The Swan and Dolphin have been a loyal option for many years, giving visitors comfortable rooms and suites. That being said, if visiting the area child-free, or looking for an adult-friendly option, head over to the brand new Walt Disney World Swan Reserve.

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Walt Disney World Swan Reserve. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

The Swan Reserve just opened up recently and has more of a mature feel with an adult-centric crowd. The hotel still has shuttles over to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and plenty of incredible restaurants like Amare for Mediterranean cuisine. Their prawns were outstanding, in addition to their excellent flatbreads and salads. If visiting the parks while in town, I highly suggest a park hopper pass and the purchase of the genie for $15. For newer rides, the rules are a little strict, but the genie allows you to look up wait times and reserve your spot occasionally for certain rides. This is a great option that helps to avoid wait times when possible. Plus, with the 50th anniversary going on, there are a lot of wonderful specialty food options throughout all the parks.

Wallaby Ranch

1805 Deen Still Rd, Davenport, FL, 33897

Near Orlando in Davenport, visit Wallaby Ranch about 20 minutes from the Swan Reserve. Malcolm Jones, the owner, will bring guests up for tandem hang gliding flights that generally last around 15 minutes. The weather needs to cooperate, and cloud coverage can’t be too abundant, but if the wind conditions are good to go, riders will head up to the sky, being pulled behind another plane by a tether. Once high enough, the tether is released, and the glider will soar through the sky. Malcolm is even great about letting guests fly the glider planes and experience what it’s like to steer.

Famous Bird’s Underwater Manatee Dive Center

320 US-19, Crystal River, FL, 34428

Guests can actually swim with manatees for about an hour outside of Orlando. The boat will take the small group out and spend time searching for the right area to observe the manatees. Once found, guests will gently and quietly get in the water with snorkels, wetsuits, and noodles to help them stay afloat and out of the manatee’s way while observing them as they graze on the underwater grass and float slowly through the water. The group had a special opportunity to observe a mom and her baby, even seeing the baby nurse.

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Swimming with manatees. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Williston

It’s a bit of a hike, but a quick stop in Williston to see Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring (5390 NE 180th Ave, Williston, FL 32696) is an experience you won’t want to miss. Although in an area kind of off on its own, a little bit south of Orlando, Devil’s Den, the prehistoric spring, is worth visiting to experience swimming inside. Whether visitors are scuba certified or snorkelers, they can sign up to view this incredible natural spring, deep within the cave, or simply snorkel at the top to take a refreshing dip in the crystal blue waters.

Sarasota

Sarasota is filled with adventure and has one of the best beaches in the country. It’s an incredible area to soak in the hot sun, swim in the clear blue waters, and find thrilling activities from parasailing to feeding flamingos.

The Sarasota Jungle Gardens

3701 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL, 34234

The Sarasota Jungle Gardens offers a really unique experience. When guests arrive, ask the attendant for food for specific animals, like the flamingo food. As visitors are observing the animals free roaming in the park, they’ll notice the animals are friendly and excited to be fed. The flamingos literally surround guests, interacting with them.

Siesta Key

Explore the local landscapes by laying on the sand of Siesta Key Beach. The sand is so clean and fluffy due to it being about 99 percent quartz. It literally feels like somebody dumped cooking flour all over the beach. It’s incredibly soft, and stays fairly cool, unlike other sand. On the beach, visitors can rent stand-up paddle boards and floats when staying in the condos nearby, like Midnight Cove. Another great option is the Carlisle Inn and Conference Center (3727 Bahia Vista St, Sarasota, FL 34232) with nice amenities like an outdoor pool to cool off in and a complimentary breakfast.

Parasail Siesta

1250 Stickney Point Rd, Siesta Key, FL, 34242

See Siesta Key beach from a different angle with Parasail Siesta. The fun and peaceful ride will give guests views of the beach and the city from the sky, while possibly seeing dolphins playing in the wake on the boat ride back in.

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Parasailing in Siesta, Florida. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria

27 Fletcher Ave, Sarasota, FL, 34237

Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria is perfect if you’re looking for some Italian cuisine. The burrata Caprese and the meatballs are incredible and don’t forget to save room for dessert like a slice of their sweet pizza.

Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar

Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar is the perfect spot for raw clams, oysters on the half shell, giant Alaskan king crab legs, blackened grouper sandwiches, stuffed oysters, and incredible key lime pie. It’s a super casual spot where you can go to fill your stomach with delicious dishes and a beer after a long day at the beach.

Owen’s Fish Camp

516 Burns Ct #7030, Sarasota, FL, 34236

Owen’s Fish Camp is a great local spot, tucked away from the main strip. The wait can be a little long, but trust me, it’s worth it. They have fresh, locally caught fish served with a sauce of your choice, southern collard greens, cheesy grits, oyster shooters, and other fantastic options. Although their wait times can be long, they have a really nice back patio where they serve fire-roasted oysters with jalapeño butter and drinks, generally with live music, so Owens does a great job of entertaining guests while they wait for a table.

Jupiter

On the ocean side of the state in Jupiter, check into the Wyndham Grand Jupiter At Harbourside Place (122 Soundings Ave, Jupiter, FL 33477). It’s a great location, bringing you within walking distance to a bunch of local shops and restaurants, in addition to nearby adventurous excursions. They also have an incredible pool to soak in the views and cool off after a day of exploring, before heading back up to relax in the room.

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

Shark diving in Florida. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Florida Shark Diving

1095 Florida A1A, Jupiter, FL, 33477

One of the most incredible things you can do in this area of Florida is going on an excursion with Florida Shark Diving. Not far from the hotel, Captain John will bring you out into the ocean with his team, including ocean photographers, where guests will get the chance to free dive with sharks and observe them ethically, in their natural habitat. Again, there is no cage for this excursion, guests will simply float at the top and watch as the sharks swim among them. It’s just important to stay calm, and relaxed, and just simply watch without touching them or getting in their way. During the excursion, our group saw bull sharks and silky sharks, but on occasion, they have seen hammerheads and other kinds of sharks, as well.

1000 NORTH

1000 US-1, Jupiter, FL, 33477

After the shark dive, stop at 1000 North. They have amazing crab soup with a drizzle of sherry, jumbo prawns with peanut sauce, and a huge waffle sundae loaded with pretzels, hot fudge, toasted marshmallow, and more. It’s the perfect end to an incredible day exploring Jupiter.

Ocala

Shark Diving, Cave Swimming and Unique Adventures in Florida

World Equestrian Center. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

World Equestrian Center

8601 SR 40, Ocala, FL, 34482

Ocala has a lot to offer in Central Florida, including plenty of adventure. Check into the World Equestrian Center Luxury Hotel where they have beautiful rooms with soaking tubs, restaurants and cafés right on the property, and views of the equestrian center from many of the hotel rooms.

Nearby, head to Rainbow River and Silver Springs to check out some of the local Florida clear blue springs. They are stunning to see and visitors out in the water can literally see down to the plant life on the spring floor, the wildlife like sea turtles and manatees, and even see the monkeys in Silver Springs. Yes, monkeys. Many people think they originally got there because movies have been filmed on that location, but apparently, they were released by a boat captain as a joke and their numbers have increased since then. Silver Springs (5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488) have glass bottom boat tours if guests prefer to see the views while staying dry.

Canyon Zip Line and Adventure Park

8045 NW Gainesville Road (CR 25A), Ocala, FL

The adventure park brings guests through the gorge, zipping over beautiful canyons with views of the river below, before venturing over the swaying Indiana Jones-style rope bridges. Adventurous souls will even end the tour with a repel to the bottom, getting their heart pumping and testing their fear of heights.

For a bite to eat, there are a lot of great restaurants in the area. For delicious shrimp and grits, try Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille (24 SE 1st Ave, Ocala, FL 34471). The Horse & Hounds (6998 US-27, Ocala, FL 34482) has tender prime rib, baby back ribs, and beer cheese dip with salty soft pretzels. Swampy’s Bar & Grille (19773 E Pennsylvania Ave, Dunnellon, FL 34432) right on Rainbow River is a great place to spot with otters and other wildlife while digging into their blackened shrimp or smoky seafood gumbo.

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